Book Review: Sipping “Spilled Coffee”

“I like stories within a story,” author J.B. Chicoine says—one of the many reasons I love her books. When I reviewed her first novel, Uncharted, I even admitted to some authorly jealousy for the unexpected twists and turns she managed to weave in between a series of images that put me right into each scene. So even though her second book didn’t involve sailing, I was still very eager to tear off the plastic cover.Spilled-Coffee-front-6x9

The opening scene (in a coffee shop, of course) drew me in quickly, just as I expected. Ben Hughes meets a potential love interest, drops hints about his recently ended engagement, and lets us know he’s on a curious mission involving a lakeside summer cottage, some dark personal history, and a dysfunctional family…. I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next.

And eventually, I did, though at times Ben’s hints came slower than a brewed morning cuppa. A droplet of information here… a hiss of detail there… I wanted to know more, sooner. Telling a story that happens in the past is a delicate tightrope between “just enough” and “too much,” and the first third of this book may err slightly toward not enough information and too much foreshadow. But since I so much prefer that to being told too much too early (a frequent mistake in my own writing), I stuck with it. Besides, I couldn’t put it down until I’d figured out what was going to happen to Benjamin and his first love, Amelia. (Everyone else calls her “Amy”, and she is the only one who calls him “Benjamin,” one of the many tiny details that made them so real to me.)

Once I had enough information to draw my own conclusions about the ending, I enjoyed the steady drip, drip, drip of details that were carefully woven into the narrative. With each new step back into the past (artfully marked with a pocket watch picon), the story unfolded. And then in spite of my preconceived notions, the ending completely surprised me—another reason I love Chicoine’s books.

Even as I am still absorbing this one, J.B. Chicoine is already working on a new story—and I can’t wait to read it. Better to sip spilled coffee slowly than to get dowsed with a firehose of information, which is the more standard approach in most novels.

Learn more about the next book and this one on J.B. Chicoine’s blog.